Workshop: Code-Meshing in the Classroom

“Should Writer’s Use They Own English?: A Conversation on Code-Meshing in the Classroom”

A Faculty Discussion with Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Professor in Drama and Speech Communication, University of Waterloo (Canada)

https://uwaterloo.ca/drama-speech-communication/people-profiles/vershawn-young

Organizers: Ahyana King, Director of Intercultural Affairs; Sean Meehan, Director of Writing

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The format will be a brief presentation by Dr. Young followed by ample time for our questions and conversation with him. Dr. Young’s scholarship argues that teachers should value the linguistic principle of “code-meshing” over “code-switching,” and more broadly, should understand how we might listen for and support a broader diversity of literacies in our classes. While relevant to writing courses, this discussion surely opens onto larger questions of diversity in all of our classes and across campus: how we value it, in practice as well as in principle. So, please attend even if you aren’t teaching a course that involves writing.

Later in the evening [Litrenta Lecture Hall, 7-8 pm] you will have another opportunity to converse with Dr. Young at “#TalkThatTalk: A Roundtable Conversation About the Student of Color Experience on College Campuses.” Further details on this campus conversation will be coming from Ahyana King.

In advance of the lunchtime discussion, please read “Should Writers Use They Own English?” (attached). This essay will give you a critical and creative experience with the issues involved in what Dr. Young means by code-meshing. Should you want to do some further reading into Dr. Young’s scholarship and the critical conversation he engages, I have also attached his article “Nah, We Straight: An Argument Against Code-Switching.”

Articulating Effective Response to Student Writing

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Articulating Effective Response to Student Writing

November 11, 2015

12-1.15

Hynson Lounge

 

Conferencing with Students: Lessons from the Writing Center and the Classroom

Neisha-Anne Green, Assistant Director of the Writing Center

 

Response Within and Beyond the Classroom: Using Canvas to Initiate Peer Response

John Boyd, Director of the Writing Center

 

Using a Rubric to Focus Feedback: Evaluation as Response

Sean Meehan, Director of Writing

 

Respondent/Questions regarding Canvas: Nancy Cross, Director of Educational Technology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Flip Without Flipping Out: Some Digital Resources for Teaching the Analog Experience of Writing

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An early flipped classroom?

Below you will find links to some digital resources I selectively use in my writing courses at Washington College and recommend that you consider for your courses, suitable for teaching writing, argumentation, and style at all levels in the college. But this is not an argument to flip your classroom, per se, even though it looks like one. Let me explain.

Writers seek resources, feedback, and instructive models as a way to develop their writing. The motivation for doing so is audience. Aristotle’s definition of the ways rhetoric teaches and tunes in audience goes like this: The faculty of observing (or discovering) the available means of persuasion in any given case. To persuade means to relate, to communicate and to connect. In this way, writing, or at least the writing we expect from our students in the academy, is fundamentally an analog technology and faculty: the signals should be continuous with the sources of information we study and thereby reproduce.

Where do we find the available means for persuading students how to write and to communicate today? Increasingly, one answer we are hearing with urgency argues that the means have to be digital in order to be accessible to our digitally native (and increasingly, digitally addled) students.  I don’t agree entirely, and worry (as both teacher and parent) that in some cases our practices are creating self-fulfilling prophecies. But that need not be every case. The “flipping” and “blending” of our classrooms and courses, courses which are fundamentally analog places for learning, can be enhanced by the means of digital resources.

However, such resources of information should not be confused with the ends of teaching.  If seeking the available means of persuasion, wherever that given case might be, is understood as the basis for what all writers and speakers do, then a good writing classroom has been “flipped” or “hybrid” since liberal education began, long before these terms became educational buzz words. This flipping–the targeting of elements of writing, critical reading, and style that each student individually needs to work on and develop–goes on, of course, when students come to our offices for a conference or work with peer tutors in the Writing Center. In fact, since skill in communicating with others is one of the main goals in teaching writing, I would suggest that analog, non-virtual versions of the flipped classroom, the conference with a tutor or mentor or peer, provide not just information, but a better opportunity  to learn to commune and to communicate with others than do digital versions.

And yet, I recognize that these analog experiences are not the only spaces where students, and let’s face it, faculty, are interacting with ideas and each other (I am, after all, communicating with you through this digital space of this blog). Digital varieties of flipping, of the YouTube and Kahn Academy variety that have become especially popular in secondary and primary schools, places strapped for resources like our wonderful Writing Center and our enviable class sizes, might be useful when appropriately used to supplement the course and its purposes. We, teachers, should be as rhetorically selective in our materials and resources as writers should be. How does this information serve my course (my argument)? What will be its effects on my audience? These resources are obviously available (Google and YouTube have made them seemingly ubiquitous), but whether they are a means for persuasive teaching and learning, in any given case, is another matter that we should decide, using (as Aristotle reminds us) our faculties.

Listed below  are digital resources I recommend that you could selectively direct your students to, as students work outside the classroom, targeting particular areas of their revision (strengthening their argumentation and critical thinking, their organization) and editing (style, grammar, punctuation). One way you might direct students for teaching beyond the classroom: select a particular discussion (some of these resources offer follow-up exercises) by providing them the link, ask students to use while working on revision or editing. For example, when students are editing their first writing project, I have them read Michael Harvey’s chapter in The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing that discusses active and passive voice. [Note: First Year students receive a free copy of this book over the summer; if you would like a free copy for yourself to consider using in your course, I will get you one]. Assigning a book chapter to be used outside of class is also flipping the classroom, is it not? Along with this strategy, I give students the link to this discussion of Active v. Passive voice at the Style Academy.  This precedes my brief discussion of the topic in an editing workshop I organize with students the last class before their first writing project is due.

Another method: after a paper or writing project has been completed or returned to students with your feedback, identify a particular element that you focus on in class as a follow-up. For example, if you notice that a fair number of student writers struggled with a key element of argumentation, the need for a claim or thesis to be contestable or arguable, you might turn to this discussion from the Grounds for Argument resource that includes a video clip from Monty Python to elucidate its point. You might do something similar with particular grammatical or punctuation problems you observe in student writing, directing students to follow-up with a discussion of Comma Splices in the Guide to Grammar and Writing, one that includes interactive quizzes.

Here is a selection of several resources I have used and recommend (others are linked on the left of this blog under Resources):

Composing Arguments [Davidson]

Guide to Grammar and Writing [Capital Community College, Hartford CT]

Grounds for Argument [UVA]

Style Academy [BYU]

Purdue OWL [especially for citation guidelines]

Faculty Development Seminar: The Revision of Writing

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Faculty Development Seminar: The Revision of Writing

May 20, 2015 | Washington College

Sponsors: Barbara and George Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning, the Director of Writing, and The Writing Center.

Seminar Leaders: John Boyd, Director of the Writing Center; Sean Meehan, Director of Writing

Seminar Guidelines: This one-day seminar guides faculty in developing and revising assignments and syllabi for First-Year Writing and Writing Intensive courses. The seminar will combine reading and discussion of best practices in writing pedagogy with hands-on work applying those practices to the revision and development of assignments and curriculum for a course identified by each participant. The intent is to provide the attention needed to develop and rethink assignments that can enhance our process in teaching writing, in a small-group setting, with time to get some work done outside the flux of the semester. Participants will meet on campus for sessions that will include discussion of selected texts (read in advance), and work sessions guided by the seminar leaders

The seminar will run from 9-4.30, with lunch included; participants will receive a $250 stipend for participating in the seminar. Some reading in advance of the seminar will be required, with materials provided. A follow-up discussion will be planned for some point during the academic year to share lessons and experiences from the seminar and the resulting course development.

This seminar is open to any instructor teaching a Writing Intensive course or a First-Year Writing Course (ENG 101 or GRW 101). This can be a course taught in the past year, a course that will be offered in the coming year, or a new course you are planning to propose.

Application: Please submit the brief application (attached), identifying your interest and the course/assignments you would be interested in developing and revising during the workshop. Send an email with the application to Sean Meehan, Director of Writing,, by Monday, May 4. We scheduled the workshop this year earlier than last year, in an attempt to accommodate faculty whose summer travel and research plans take them away from campus in June. If you have an interest in the workshop but can’t attend this summer, let me know in any case, particularly if there is a different time of summer that you would like to see this workshop offered. Although we would love to see and hear from last year’s very energetic participants, we are going to restrict participation to instructors who did not have the opportunity to attend last year.

Paper Grading

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A blog post from Pedagogy Unbound that offers recommendations and ideas for dealing with the paper load: “So Many Papers, So Little Time.”

This suggestion caught my eye as a good strategy for establishing a focus on audience and purpose for the writing assignment–that is, a way to get students to think about the audience and purpose for their writing (and not just for your assignment). These are important, best-practice elements of writing process that we emphasize in our guidelines for Writing Intensive courses as well as first-year writing courses.

Eliminate unnecessary tasks. You don’t want to waste your time grading an essay from a student who obviously didn’t follow instructions, or who has written 300 words on a cocktail napkin. The key here is to put in a little more work early on. Make sure students clearly understand the assignment, and what is expected of them. State explicitly what you’re looking for, and on what criteria they will be graded. Are your students able to recognize good work? Do they know what a good paper looks like? An exercise like the one I suggested last month, in which students review examples of assignments from past years and then discuss the reasoning behind each grade, can go a long way toward getting rid of unnecessarily terrible papers—the ones that always take forever to grade.

Set up pre-writing conferences. If you have time, those conferences can also help stamp out small problems before they become big ones. If time constraints mean you can’t meet with students individually, try breaking them into groups to discuss each others’ drafts and plans. You can create a simple checklist for each group to go through: Does everyone have a thesis statement? Has everyone found appropriate sources? While the groups are working, walk around the room and keep an eye out for any red flags.

We want students to understand the writing assignment–the argument, the research, the essay, whatever the genre of the writing–as having a live purpose. This makes for better writing, and for better learning. One way we can do that is to expand the audience (as this suggestion does with reviewing past examples of student writing, and creating an audience in the class) and to focus on the purpose of the paper as part of the class discussion, earlier in the process.

 

 

Why Academics Stink at Writing

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Steven Pinker writes about the problem of academic writing in the Chronicle (9.29.14). The thoughts are from his new book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

You can read the article “Why Academics Stink at Writing,” or download a pdf/booklet version of it with 4 responses from experts (“And How to Fix it”) here.

Some of the specifics offered by Pinker and his respondents will be useful in addressing the teaching of writing in the major. Pinker has his eye on discipline-based academic writing, and ways to make our writing, and by extension, I would hope, our students’ writing, more readable and recognizable to an audience beyond a journal specializing in one discipline. However, it might be even more useful to take Pinker more for his inspiration than to take him at his word. Think about developing a booklet for your department and your majors. Something like:” Why ________ [insert discipline here] stink at writing and how our students can do better.”

Faculty Development Seminar: The Revision of Writing

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Faculty Development Seminar: The Revision of Writing

June 16 and 17, 2014, Washington College

Sponsors: Barbara and George Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning, the Director of Writing, and The Writing Center.

Seminar Leaders: John Boyd, Director of the Writing Center; Sean Meehan, Director of Writing

Seminar Guidelines: This two-day seminar guides faculty in developing and revising assignments and syllabi for First-Year Writing and Writing Intensive courses. The seminar will combine reading and discussion of best practices in writing pedagogy with hands-on work applying those practices to the revision and development of assignments and curriculum for a course identified by each participant. The intent is to provide the attention needed to develop and rethink assignments that can enhance our process in teaching writing, in a small-group setting, with time to get some work done outside the flux of the semester. Participants will meet on campus for sessions that will include discussion of selected texts (read in advance), workshops guided by seminar leaders, and work sessions focused on revising and developing writing curriculum informed by best practices explored in the seminar.

The sessions will be 9-4 each day, with lunch included; participants will receive a $500 stipend for the two days. A modest amount of reading in advance of the seminar will be required, with materials provided. A follow-up discussion will be planned for some point during the academic year to share lessons and experiences from the seminar and the resulting course development.

This seminar is open to anyone teaching a Writing Intensive course or a First-Year Writing Course (ENG 101 or GRW 101). This can be a course taught in the past year, a course that will be offered in the coming year, or a new course you are planning to propose.

Application: Please submit the brief application (attached), identifying your interest and the course/assignments you would be interested in developing and revising during the workshop. Send an email with the application to Sean Meehan, Director of Writing,, by Friday, May 23.

 

 

 

Workshop: Supporting the Writing Process

April 23, 2014, 4:30 pm in the Sophie Kerr room.

A workshop and discussion that will focus on a key principle and guideline for Writing Intensive courses: “support the writing process” (see the guidelines copied below). We will also discuss ideas and suggestions for the ongoing Task Force looking at the writing program, in particular the writing requirement beyond the first-year.

More details soon…

Writing Intensive Program: Overview and Requirements

Writing Intensive (WI) courses play a significant role in the comprehensive approach to writing at Washington College, where students write across the curriculum and throughout four years of study.  Writing Intensive courses in the sophomore and junior years provide students with a transition from the academic essentials of writing and research emphasized in the first-year seminars (Literature and Composition and GRW), and offer students an invitation to apply and deepen their writing skills in the context of a major and/or a discipline.

 

A WI course emphasizes two principles: (1) Writing is a way to learn, not only a demonstration of mastery of material, and (2) Writing is a process that benefits from being made visible, i.e. the various stages of writing are recognized and supported in the classroom.

Requirements for a Writing Intensive Course

Embracing these principles, courses designated as Writing Intensive will:

 

  1. Have at least three formal writing assignments (essay tests don’t fall into this category), spaced throughout the semester, that address issues raised by the course and encourage critical thinking.
  2. Offer students a written prompt for each assignment describing its audience, purpose, and discipline-specific requirements, e.g. documentation style.
  3. Provide opportunities to discuss the assignment when it’s distributed and periodically thereafter so that students understand the assignment’s expectations and see its connection to the themes of the course.
  4. Support the writing process.
  5. Include opportunities to write informally beyond the three major writing assignments.
  6. Evaluate formal assignments in a timely and meaningful way so that students can learn from the experience.
  7. Stipulate that grades on formal writing assignments constitute a significant percentage of the final course grade.

 

 

Recommendations for Developing a Writing Intensive Course

The seven requirements for a Writing Intensive course can be implemented in a variety of ways to fit best with the course and its discipline. Rather than transforming an existing course into a writing course, it is more effective to conceive a WI course as foregrounding writing in the discipline or major in which the course is located. Effective WI courses will foreground ways that writing is approached in the discipline and already being done in the course. The follow goals and suggestions are recommendations, not requirements, for faculty to consider. Whenever possible, a WI course should be capped at no more than 25 students in order to provide the support for the writing process that is expected.

 

Learning Goals of the Writing Intensive Course

Through WI courses students will develop as writers by becoming more aware of their writing, its role in the discipline, as well as in their learning and thinking.  An instructor may use the following goals to elaborate the principles of the WI course and to develop objectives and assignments specific to the course.

In a WI course, students will:

 

  • Understand writing as a process integral to their learning.
  • Gain an awareness of audience and purpose in writing and see themselves as part of a community of scholars and writers.
  • Recognize the conventions of writing in a particular discipline.
  • Develop strength and confidence in their writing.

 

Ways to Foreground Writing in the Course

 

  • Syllabus Statement: Put a brief statement in the course syllabus identifying the course as Writing Intensive. For example:
    • “This course fulfills Washington College’s Writing Intensive requirements, which means that in developing your strength and confidence in writing we will be focusing on the process of writing and revision, your awareness of audience and purpose in the writing you will do, as well as your grasp of basic conventions of writing in this discipline. These goals will be part of the following writing assignments counting for ____% of your overall course grade: [list at least three of the formal writing assignments in the course].”
  • Types of “Formal Writing Assignments”
    • Formal writing assignments should be discipline-based and focus on process, not merely the product.
    • Possibilities: essay, research paper, lab report, book review, literature review, grant/research proposal, speech or other formal presentation, and other types of writing assignments appropriate to the discipline of the course.
  • Opportunities for Informal or Exploratory Writing beyond the formal writing assignments:
    • Journals, brief response papers, blogs, summaries of important material
  • Supporting the Writing Process:
    • Individual conferences regarding work in progress.
    • Discussion of revision/editing techniques in class.

Teaching Writing By Hand in the Digital Age

Two recent articles from the Chronicle’s blog “The Conversation” that speak to the role and value of physically and intimately (and not virtually) learning the practice of writing.

The first comes from Joseph Harris, who visited with us in August 2012 for faculty workshops and conversation around his book Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Harris responds to the recent frenzied interest in all things MOOC (online education being purveyed by Harvard and his own Duke University, among other elite universities) with “Teaching By Hand in a Digital Age.” Harris argues:

It’s argued that online courses can offer students models of such response. (So can textbooks.) And, in my own courses, I often ask students to share and discuss their writing with one another. But there’s a difference between being presented with a model or heuristic and working under the guidance of a teacher. I watch over and coach the work that my students do together. And I respond to what they write, too—in class, in conference, and on the page.

If we take ourselves out of that dialogue, out of the give and take of draft and response and revision, then we are no longer teachers but content providers. Well-designed assignments and curricula are important. But they are only the very start of good teaching. A textbook is not a course. And I don’t see how a MOOC can be much more than a digitized textbook.

The key right of any learner is to the attention of his or her teacher. As my friend Eli Goldblatt says, “We teach by hand”—by which I take him to mean that we teach not subjects or courses but individuals. I suspect we still need to figure out how to offer online learners that sort of care and responsiveness.

The second article is by Mark Bauerlein who contemplates an assignment having students copy out by hand (in cursive) an essay in “The Summer Assignment.” He writes:

As a behavior resulting from years of practice, student writing doesn’t readily submit to change. In spite of all the careful classroom instruction, when a student sits down in the library to write, the old habits and unconscious dispositions kick in.

Teaching, then, becomes a matter not of supplying knowledge but of altering behavior. To improve student writing, in other words, we must inculcate better habits and dispositions.  Needless to say, a typical semester of freshman composition (or remedial English) isn’t enough. Colleges need to raise the writing component of the general-education requirements, adding another semester to the single course in writing that prevails in higher education today.

Until that happens, writing instructors can boost their impact by reaching into the summer months with a daily writing assignment. The one I have in mind is an un-innovative, non-21st century, low-technology exercise: transcription.

Think of the practice of Roman schoolchildren, 12th-century monks, and Bartleby. In this case, teachers should select an appropriate book for individual students and ask each one to devote 30 minutes each morning or evening to transcribing the prose. Open the book, find your place, grab a pen, and copy the words down in your own notebook. The selections should exemplify elements of style and grammar that students need to assimilate, for instance, Orwell’s essays, Thoreau’s Walden, and other great works of clarity and expression.

Thirty minutes a day for 100 days will advance a deep understanding of written communication, an unconscious sense of where commas go, a feel for sentence length and rhythm, a larger vocabulary, and other usage habits. It sounds laborious, but the more they transcribe, the more they will internalize effective style and correct grammar.

 

Workshop Sample: John Boyd

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John Boyd | English 101

Third Writing Project

The Assignment:

In her “Foreword” to The Bluest Eye, Morrison poses some questions that motivated her in writing the novel, and she also expresses concern about how successful she was in portraying the devastating events that occur in Pecola’s life. For our third writing project, I’d like you to use Morrison’s reflection as a framework for understanding and coming to terms with the novel. Here’s the task:

 

Choose one of the passages below from Morrison’s Foreword (or another passage that seems important to you), and use that as a starting place for an essay about the novel. In the passage you choose, what problem or question does Morrison raise for herself as an author, and how does she work through that problem or question in the characters and events of the novel?

 

Some passages you might consider:

 

When I began writing The Bluest Eye, I was interested in something else. Not resistance to the contempt of others, ways to deflect it, but the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident. (ix)

 

The reclamation of racial beauty in the sixties stirred [my] thoughts, made me think about the necessity for the claim. Why, although reviled by others, could this beauty not be taken for granted within the community? Why did it need wide public articulation to exist? (xi)

 

One problem was centering the weight of the novel’s inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than into an interrogation of themselves for the smashing. (xii)

 

In your approach to this assignment, keep in mind the conventions of literary analysis that we’ve discussed in class. Your own argument should be driven by an observation about Morrison’s project in writing the novel, and you should draw carefully and explicitly from the text of the novel to develop your perspective.

 

The completed essay should be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a standard font (Iike Times New Roman or Cambria, 12 point), with standard page margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch). Please use MLA style documentation for this essay. Although you will only be making use of two sources – the Foreword and the novel itself – you should still include a Works Cited page with entries for each source. For a guide to MLA format, you can refer to any good writing handbook (like Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference) or you can use the free resources at the following web site: http://www.dianahacker.com/resdoc/p04_c08_o.html.

 

The Process:

* One effective way to begin work on this assignment would be to reflect on our class discussions and blog entries concerning the novel so far. As you choose the passage you’d like to work with, you might also consider how some of the key words and concepts from Rewriting might apply to Morrison’s perspective on her own novel.

* An initial rough draft (at least 2 pages) is DUE and should be posted to your blog by Wednesday, November 14, at 5:00pm.

* For class on Thursday, November 15, please bring three printed copies of your draft. We’ll spend the class session reviewing the drafts together.

* The final draft of the essay will be DUE to me on Monday, November 19th, by 5:00pm. Final drafts should be emailed to me at jboyd2@washcoll.edu. Attach your draft as a Word document titled Yourlastname_Essay 3.doc.

 

 

Grading:

You’ll receive detailed feedback from me on your completed essay, and by the end of the semester, you may choose to return to this assignment for further revision as part of your final portfolio. In evaluating your essay, I’ll consider four factors:

 

Development of thesis: Your third essay should be driven by an observation or perspective that adds something to what Morrison offers in her Foreword. How is your understanding of the novel changed by the concerns she brings up there?

 

Careful, close reading of the novel and use of the text: Your essay should focus on specific details and passages from the novel as a means of supporting your thesis. This will require that you quote from the novel and that you follow up on quotations with interpretation and discussion of your own.

 

Sophistication of thinking: Above all, your essay should show that you are working with Morrison’s text in a thoughtful and critical way. Your own discussion should move beyond a summary of the novel to a discussion of how the novel addresses the problems Morrison raises in the Foreword.

 

Effective presentation: Your final draft should demonstrate a purposeful and deliberate use of language, a logical organizational plan, and an understanding of the standard conventions of English grammar, usage, and mechanics.